High Court rules ADF can be charged under DFDA for civilian offences

The High Court has ruled Defence personnel may be prosecuted under the Defence Force Discipline Act – DFDA – for civilian criminal offences despite the offences occurring off-duty, out of uniform or off-base.

The ruling, on 9 September 2020, followed a Defence member being charged in relation to a violent assault occasioning actual bodily harm against another Defence member at/following a private party in Brisbane.

The plaintiff was and is a member of the ADF in the Australian Regular Army, while the complainant was, at the time of the alleged assault, a member of the ADF in the Royal Australian Air Force.

Neither was on duty or in uniform [or on Commonwealth land] at the time of the alleged offending. 

The alleged offender launched a High Court challenge to the Defence Force Magistrate’s jurisdiction to try the charge.

A majority of the High Court ruled Defence members may, in all circumstances, be prosecuted with civilian criminal offences through the DFDA.

The High Court challenge was dismissed with costs awarded against the plaintiff.

Full details of the case can be found here.

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Brian Hartigan

Managing Editor Contact Publishing Pty Ltd PO Box 3091 Minnamurra NSW 2533 AUSTRALIA

4 thoughts on “High Court rules ADF can be charged under DFDA for civilian offences

  • 05/10/2020 at 2:57 pm
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    I always thought that was the case anyway.

    Reply
    • 05/10/2020 at 3:48 pm
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      It was. And, according to the judges’ ruling in this case, there was much precedence for it over the years. But, I guess this was the first time the High Court of Australia was asked to rule on it. And now that they have, there should be no more doubt.

      Reply
  • 02/10/2020 at 3:57 pm
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    Good Work – Well done that man! Great effort on taking it higher and getting it through the system and approved.

    Reply
    • 09/10/2020 at 3:20 pm
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      Say what? My reading of this matter is ‘the Plaintiff lost the case and had to pay the Respondents costs!

      Reply

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